We were asked the following question by Forza magazine:

"I think the valve cover gaskets are leaking on my F430. The car is stored for the winter, so I’ve got some time to tinker. Is this a straightforward job?"

They wanted to know our thoughts based on past experience specializing in Ferrari repairs.  Here's what we had to say:

 

The introduction of the F430 brought sweeping changes to everything Ferrari owners knew about Maranello’s V8 powertrains. The gearbox hardware and software had been upgraded, an electrical differential was added, and the engine was all-new. Compared to the 360’s V8, the new engine boasted more displacement, more power, computer adjustment for all four camshafts, and no timing belts. While the additional 90 horsepower was nice, that last item was a game changer for Ferrari owners who had long agonized over the high cost of timing-belt services.

 

Over the last 13 years, the F430 has proven to be very inexpensive (by earlier Ferrari standards) to own. Aside from problematic headers and some convertible-top issues on the Spiders, these cars are worry-free. Routine maintenance and away they go!

 

We’re just now starting to see some small issues with the lovely 4.3-liter V8, one of which has been oil leakage from up high. The cam-cover gaskets are as updated and beautiful as the rest of this powerplant—they’re one-piece, molded rubber as opposed to the fiddly, four-piece, cut-it-out-and-glue-it-yourself green paper gaskets Ferrari used to use—but, as with anything that is heated and cooled, oiled, expanded and contracted, they do eventually lose their structure and start to leak.

 

When they do leak, it most often shows up at the rear of the cylinder heads, where the gasket is shaped like a pair of half-moons. Spotting oil here is not where the diagnosis stops, though, as there have been many mistaken “cam cover” leaks that were actually caused by leaking variator control solenoids.

Ferrari’s fantastic adjustable camshafts are adjusted via oil pressure, and not the regular engine-oil pressure. Instead, there’s a high-pressure oil pump, driven by an intake cam to an accumulator, that operates the system. The variator control solenoids regulate this high-pressure oil to phase the cam angle. Due to the high internal pressure running through these solenoids, over time oil tends to push through the wiring and out of the connectors located on top of the cam covers.

 

All four connectors come from the factory wrapped in a foil cover and closed with blue zip ties. My recommendation when diagnosing an oil leak up-high is to open up all these foil wraps and slide them back. Even if you find one or more leaks, don’t stop there. Next, using two small picks (I use two paper clips slightly filed at the end), lightly pry the solenoid connector tabs open, slide the connectors apart, and check inside for any signs of oil. If pressurized oil has forced its way inside the connector, that solenoid must be replaced.

 

If a shop is doing this work, given the cost of parts and labor it makes sense to replace all four solenoids while everything is apart. Unfortunately, this can run the repair cost up quickly. If you’re doing this job yourself, however, you have option to repair just one bank or just one solenoid; all the parts are available separately.

 

To answer your specific DIY question, this is not an extremely difficult job. Owning a coupe will make the job tougher, as you will have to do some deep reaching to the front of the engine. I have never removed the interior access panel for this job, but that may be a worthwhile step if time is not a factor for you.

 

A few tips for the DIYer. There was a service campaign (#225/#274) that fitted breather vent covers, which look like odd-shaped rectangles, to the tops of the ignition coils. At first glance, they may seem like they’re part of the coil, but when you remove a coil bolt these will fall straight off—so take care when you’re removing the coils (which you need to do in order to remove the cam cover) and be sure to collect all the parts. When reassembling the cam covers, don’t stress over the position of the solenoid pass-throughs. They’re not fussy even though they look like they’re keyed in place.

 

Finally, it’s important to apply a dab of silicone at the points where the timing cover on the front of the engine meets the cylinder head (there are two points for each bank), as this is a potential leak point. Also apply silicone at the corners of the gasket’s half-moons at the rear of the heads.